For the second year of training in a pandemic, despite all my efforts to remain optimistic, I could not get rid of the feeling that the education system had deteriorated.
The hope that the pandemic would force leaders to reconsider their priorities in education seemed to fade with each passing day. With each passing moment as I approached the third school year after 2020, it seemed to me that something else needed to be done. Like many teachers, I felt exhausted and exceeded my limit by trying to keep together schools with a lack of resources.
At my own school there have been many unexpected retirements, a trend happening across the state and across the country. Some colleagues have stated that they do not intend to return to the 2021-22 school year. There was a feeling that someone who could easily leave was going. The teachers, myself included, were looking for change from demoralization, staff shortages and many other problems.
Since it became clear that we would not return to a fairer and more transformed system, I wanted to look for a role outside the classroom where I could impact a sustainable environment. So, like many teachers across the country, I left the class.
When I started thinking seriously about leaving class, I didn’t expect to leave school completely. If anything, I imagined working as a teacher-librarian for at least another 5-10 years. It was hard for me to imagine where else I could apply my talents and find the same level of joy I got from working as a teacher. However, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to explore my passion for equity in education, technology and design learning.
There are very few career paths for teachers in education. For those who want to stay and work in schools, the only way is to climb a narrow ladder to become a school or district administrator. These positions require more advanced degrees, testing and certification, which takes time and money. It also means continuing to work in the same system, causing stress, burnout and demoralization in the first place.
This makes many class teachers think outside the box. Current teachers, equipped with a set of technical skills gained from the pandemic of distance learning and the growth of technology in teaching in general, do a huge career turn in edtech or other educational organizations.
Often, the hardest part of the transition from the classroom is the reshaping of our career path from the K-12 environment. Our world seems so isolated from other professional backgrounds, with a special language, practices and culture. It often seems that our skill set is so unique that it is impossible to pass on. This cannot be further from the truth. Teachers have a wide range of professional competencies, making them well-suited to many other positions. Teachers can manage, design, manage, mediate, facilitate, guide, research, write and more.
We are also better prepared than most to understand the needs of edtech companies and other organizations affecting schools, students and current faculty. Excellent teachers are not only well versed in a number of technical and academic skills, but are also innate leaders. They are used to leading groups, leading from behind, instilling confidence and fostering trust.
Finally, it is important to find an organization that respects the knowledge of teachers and values them as professionals. Unfortunately, there are some places that continue to be included in the same cycle of recycling and underestimation of employees. Other companies are more focused on technology than on the educational opportunities they can provide. This may mean a mismatch of values for former educators.
A new perspective
Working outside the classroom has also brought some new insights into the world of edtech and educational organizations in general. There are so many edtech companies that have been launched without a tutor in sight. It becomes very difficult to understand the real pain points that students and teachers face if you haven’t experienced it recently. As a lecturer, I could easily tell which companies were designed without the involvement of faculty, students, or individuals. Although some companies seem to recognize this fact, it is important for them to continue to look for teachers for leadership.
In my current position, I am developing an interactive online learning experience with a focus on DEI and multimodality. I was lucky enough to work with a team made up almost entirely of former teachers. This means a team of true teachers and practitioners who understand not only the theory of what we create, but also the practical application and how to make a profound impact on people.
As a result of the pandemic, the world of edtech and education in general is growing rapidly. He brought new ideas and fantastic solutions. However, what is usually lacking is the voice of real people who are affected by this space on a daily basis. Teachers seeking transition need to be prepared to be at the forefront of what will come next in all areas of education, not just the classroom.
As I connect with more and more people in the space, I still feel the need for more teachers in the classroom – and how companies often fail because they lack the much-needed perspective. If we want to continue to influence education outside the classroom, we need to make it clear that our voice, experience and talent are paramount to success. After all, great teachers never stop sharing what they know.